The Military Pilot

Published: 04 Oct 2013 By David Learmount

It may seem superfluous to mention it, but if you choose the military you are joining as an officer who will be trained first to lead others into battle on your country’s behalf, but who may also be trained as a pilot.

If you apply to join as a pilot, you will undergo several days of interviewing, selection exercises, and psychometric testing designed to check your aptitudes as an officer, a potential leader and as a pilot. If accepted, you will be trained first as an officer on a course involving square bashing, boot polishing, military field exercises and all. If you survive your officer training and earn your commission, you’ll begin your training as a pilot.

In some countries, if you are at university you can apply to be considered as a military officer candidate as an undergraduate. If you pass the selection process, you can then join a university air squadron and be trained to fly light aircraft at no cost to yourself. In some countries this binds you to join the forces on graduation, but in others it does not.

Military pilots learn the same academic disciplines as civilians, but they train towards a military licence and instrument rating that allows them to operate in all civil airspace, not just military training areas or war zones.

Far from having to pay for their pilot training, military pilots are paid while they train. Their training, except for the very early part of the course, is carried out in higher performance aircraft than those their civilian counterparts fly, but they learn the same skills the civvies are taught. Military pilots, however, are also taught how to push their aeroplanes to the limits of their flight envelopes and even beyond. Aerobatic training, an expensive option for most civilian trainees, is standard for the military, as is formation flying and manoeuvring,  as well as high-speed low-level flying, which would be illegal for a civil pilot.

Continuous assessment during training does more than ensure competence; it enables the instructors to assess suitability for future roles in active service. The sharpest students are streamed onto fast jets, whether strike aircraft or interceptors, others onto multi-engine, multi-crew aircraft in various roles, and some onto helicopters.

Beyond the basic and advanced training stages, the pilots are rated on their operational types, and then begin training for the missions they will be required to perform in their war roles. There is no equivalent for this experience in a purely civil-trained pilot.

When they leave the service, military pilots are welcomed into the airlines for their flexibility and in-depth experience, although they are unlikely to have as many hours in their log books as civil pilots of the same age. Nevertheless, they still have to sit the same academic tests and pass the same flying tests to convert their military licences to civil ones if they want to fly commercially.


Read the next article about becoming a pilot, Financing commercial pilot training
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